Loudoun Valley held a commanding team lead two miles into Saturday’s Nike Cross Nationals boys’ championship. After shouldering high expectations all season long, the Vikings weren’t about to crumble.
Instead, they created space over the remainder of the 5K course at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Ore., shaving more points off their team total to take the national title with 89 points, the lowest boys’ total in the event’s history.
“The boys were outstanding,” Coach Marc Hunter said. “They had a bull’s eye on their back early in the season, and it didn’t affect them at all. I’m just amazed at the stress these guys could’ve — maybe even should’ve — had, and they just didn’t let it affect them at all.”
The Vikings’ starting box was all the way on the outside, so getting out to a fast start and maneuvering out of traffic early were critical to their success.
“We all moved up the left side perfectly, and that was really key for getting out,” said Peter Morris, who led the way for the Vikings with a 12th-place finish in 15 minutes 29.9 seconds. “There was a bit of pushing and shoving, so making sure you just stay on your feet and stay strong the entire time was also key.”
Sam Affolder crossed next for the Vikings in 15:37.3 for 23rd place. Colton Bogucki came in 37th in 15:48.6, Jacob Hunter placed 43rd in 15:52.4, and Connor Wells finished 95th in 16:23.4 to round out the top five.
Chase Dawson and Kevin Carlson, the Vikings’ sixth and seventh runners, placed 108th in 16:28.4 and 113th in 16:31.8, respectively. With the win, Loudoun Valley became the first team from the Southeast region to take the national title.
“I was getting pretty emotional on the [awards] stage,” said Bogucki, a senior, “just thinking that this is the last cross-country race that Chase, Peter and I will run in together and just how far we’ve come. It was a great, great moment.”
Fayetteville-Manlius (N.Y.) came in second among teams with 159 points, followed by Mountain Vista (Col.) with 163. Aidan Troutner of Utah placed first individually in 15:03.9, followed by Brodey Hasty of Tennessee in 15:05.9 and Liam Anderson of California in 15:07.6.
Severna Park junior Garrison Clark, who qualified individually, placed 54th in 15:59.5. Edison senior Yared Mekonnen, also competing individually, finished 76th in 16:13.
But at the end of the race, it was Loudoun Valley raising the trophy after an undefeated season, living up to all the hype that came with its preseason No. 1 national ranking.
“Everything we worked for, it happened today,” Jacob Hunter said. “It’s amazing.”